Track and field bloodlines run deep in the Farmer family including Josh (center), his father Matt (left) and grandfather Dixon (right).
- - -
Two coaches were awaiting the start of the girls 1600-meter championships in the 2019 CIF-State Track and Field Championships.
"That tall girl looked pretty good in the prelims," said one. "And she's only a freshman."
"She should," answered the other, "considering her bloodlines."
He then went on to explain that the 'tall girl' was Jacey Farmer, whose grandfather was Dixon Farmer, a three-time state champion for Miramonte High in Orinda and NCAA 400-meter hurdle champion at Occidental College.
She's the daughter of Matt Farmer, a 6-10 high jumper and fine all-around athlete at Monte Vista High (SD) who would later scale 7-feet at UC Irvine.
Her brother, Josh, is the San Diego Section record-holder in the decathlon, a third place finisher in the Pac-12 decathlon as a freshman and currently readying for the 2021 season after transferring to UC Irvine.
Just to make it even more obvious, Jacey's mom, formerly Kristin Harkins of La Quinta High (SS), was a three-time All-American at Cal Poly Pomona, clocking bests of 2:11.61 for 800 meters and 4:29.80 for 1500.
Let's take a look at the lineage:
If Miramonte had a swimming pool, it's likely Dixon Farmer might never have stepped on the track.
"I was a swimmer, but it was the first year of classes at Miramonte and there was no pool, so I went out for track," said Dixon. "My dad (Dick) was a state champion in the high jump and 100 but he played football and other sports.
"My dad took me to a Junior Olympics meet at Kezar Stadium and I won my age group 440. I was hooked. Going to the state meet at Chico in 1956 (as a freshman spectator) solidified it."
In 1958 Farmer captured the state 440 title in 48.6 and the next year was voted the track athlete of the meet after defending his quarter-mile title in another 48.6 as well as finishing first in the 180y low hurdles in 19.2 seconds.
Two years later he won the NCAA 440 hurdles in 50.8 but a series of injuries at just the wrong time sidelined him for the 1964 Olympic Trials. Instead of continuing to compete he turned his attention to coaching, taking over the Occidental College program in 1968 after assisting for four years before going on to Michigan (1972-73, cross country and track), Washington (1973-80) and San Diego State (1980-86).
One meet at SDSU, the announcer failed to show up and Dixon left the field to do those duties as well. So comfortable was he behind the mic, he was in demand at the high school, college and USATF level. He still works the state high school championships where he is the on-field commentator.
That could set him up to interview Jacey one day.
"That would be terrific," said Dixon. "I like working the State Meet because it gives me a chance to bring personality to the events. The fans see the physicality but this gives them a chance to hear what they're thinking.
"I try to talk to the athletes ahead of time to get some idea how they'll be answering questions because you never know. I remember interviewing middle distance great Regina Jacobs at the nationals and she just grabbed the mic and went off. It was great."
For Matt Farmer, competing in track was simply a given.
"Because of my dad, I was around track growing up when he was at Michigan, Washington and SDSU," said Matt. "He let me enjoy the sport on my own.
"I remember attending the 1972 Olympic Trials in Eugene and the USA-Russian dual meet in 1975. We were in the stands but he had athletes who were competing. I grew up around track and field and so did my kids."
Matt blossomed at Monte Vista where in 1987 he topped the San Diego Section in the high jump at 6-10 and the long jump with a wind-aided 23-10.25.
"At family gatherings we talk quite a bit about track because it's a common bond, the central focus," he said. "It's a huge part of our lives and has put a lot of smiles on our faces."
Matt went into coaching, like his dad, first at Santa Margarita (1995-99), then at Murrieta Valley (2000-2009) before moving on to Rancho Bernardo (2016-18).
While coaching he also joined VS Athletics, a company that sells track and field equipment. He started at the bottom rung and after 10 years now is the National Sales Manager.
"It's a lot like competing," he said of VS, "you're working with people you love (coaches) and it's a very competitive business. Track and field is great because it's one sport where you get out as much as you put in. You don't have to depend on 10 others like in football."
While he loves his job, he's also excited about seeing how his son, Josh (pictured above during his record-setting decathlon victory at Arcadia in 2018), fares in the decathlon, and says to keep an eye on Jayce.
"You ask any member of the family and they'll tell you she's the best athlete," said Matt.
Although she was surrounded by track and field competitors, Jayce didn't really get interested in track until her freshman year of cross country at Rancho Bernardo in 2018.
After performing at an unexpectedly high level all season, the freshman finished second in the section championships behind Carlie Dorostkar of Canyon Crest, clocking a time of 18:11.8 for three miles to lead RB to the Division I team title.
A week later she blazed an 18:00.6 for 3.1 miles at the State Meet, finishing 14th overall.
Moving on to track, she didn't slow down a step, speeding to a 2:13.15 in the 800 and 4:55.30 in the 1600, capturing both San Diego Section titles as a freshman. In the state 1600m, she ran a 4:53.75 PR in prelims and ran 4:56.02 to place eighth in the final.
The strategy that worked so well leading up to the State Meet -- sitting back and roaring past on the final lap with uncanny speed -- didn't work against the likes of Chino Hills' Jacqueline Duarte (4:42.58) or Buchanan's Meagen Lowe (4:43.61), but Farmer was the first freshman and couldn't wait to see how much she could improve in just her second year of running.
But in addition to track, Jayce is a nationally-ranked soccer player and playing two sports, especially one as physical as soccer, invites trouble. Sure enough, during her sophomore year of cross country she was beset with one injury after another, not even coming close to her freshman times.
"I wanted to help the team in any way I could," said Jayce, who battled through, hoping that she could regain her form. "I learned a lot. I discovered one of the problems was the shoes I was wearing and I learned that when coach says to take rest days, to do it. It was one injury after another."
Jayce, who is at least 6-foot-1 and still growing, was forced to wear a boot this summer because of a foot injury and after two months, was cleared to run this fall. She says she feels close to 100 percent but won't be playing any high school soccer and is hoping she and everyone else can start team cross country training toward the end of January.
"I've been on a stationary bike, but you can't compensate for not training," said Jayce, who is hoping for a solid cross country season to position her for a track campaign where she wants to break 4:50 and at a minimum make the victory stand (top six) at state.
"My goal is to better my mom's best time (4:49.93 converted 1500-meter time).
"I'll admit, I wasn't as disappointed as others not having a state track meet because I was injured. I was disappointed for my teammates. I'm finding a balance with track and soccer -- I like track the most."
Being good in two sports quickly caught the eye of the University of Arizona, which offered her a combination soccer/track scholarship when she was a freshman. While she's looking forward to that, it's still two seasons away and she wants to at least get back to where she was as a freshman.
"I think what I learned most from the injuries and having a bad cross country season was that my family supported me just as much when I was down as when I was up," she said.
Just what you'd expect from those bloodlines.
Thank you to the Farmer family for the contributed photos (at the top, and inserted above of Kristin and Jacey).
Staff images by Clark Kranz, DeAnna Turner, Daniel Tyree.